Asbestos present in schools across Scotland
Asbestos disease is not a thing of the past.
Although it was traditionally associated with heavy industries such as shipbuilding, railways or power stations, the last 5 years saw a rise in asbestos disease from workers in the building trade such as joiners, plumbers and electricians. It is now being seen more and more where people have been exposed to a low level of asbestos over a period of time.
This can include car mechanics, factory workers, office staff and people in schools: teachers, lecturers, school staff and pupils.
Asbestos is present in schools across Scotland
Asbestos was widely used in building schools throughout Scotland in the 1950s to the mid-1980s.
It was used for fireproofing and insulation and school system buildings, such as CLASP and SCOLA structures, tended to have structural columns fire proofed with asbestos containing materials.
Scottish schools built before 2000 that have asbestos in the walls, ceiling or floors:
- Edinburgh - 93.1%
- Fife - 86%
- Dumfries & Galloway - 67%
- Falkirk - 62%
Local authorities involved maintain that the risks posed by the asbestos are minimal and that they have in place strict asbestos management plans.
These plans are there to show the location of all asbestos and manage asbestos, for example through regular checks. This is to ensure risk of people using the buildings being exposed to asbestos is kept minimal and prevent asbestos from being disturbed as this is when it is at its most dangerous.
However, in some local authorities, the asbestos management plans appear to be less stringent.
In August 2014, approximately 5 days before the end of the school summer holidays, workmen in one secondary school in Glasgow’s South Side discovered white and brown asbestos whilst carrying out roof repairs, unwittingly exposing themselves to asbestos.
In 2016, the demolition and rebuilding of a primary school was delayed after contractors demolising the old school found qunatities of asbestos in the foundations.
Why should we take action?
It is vital that we remove asbestos from schools across Scotland to remove the risk altogether.
Even though it may be low levels of asbestos that people are exposed to at work, numerous teaching staff and people working across the school such as secretaries, school cleaners and cooks have died from an asbestos related disease, Mesothelioma.
Children have also been found to be more vulnerable to asbestos exposure than adults. Therefore, the risk of low levels of exposure at school can be higher for children (Committee on Carcinogenicity, June 2013 Report).
There is greater difficulty in proving that asbestos related disease is caused by low levels of exposure and victims need justice.
What is the current position in Scotland regarding asbestos in schools?
It is a moral duty of employers and local authorities to protect staff, pupils and members of the public from the risks of asbestos.
The Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 states it is a duty on the duty holder to manage the risks from asbestos in schools, though there is no specific requirement for duty holders to remove asbestos from schools.
There has been nothing done by the Scottish Government to clarify the procedure for asbestos management and / or removal in Scottish schools. The Scottish Government state that they are “following current HSE advice and recommendations by the All Party Parliamentary Group for Occupational Safety and Health: phased removal is key.”
What are the next steps?
There are active campaigns in England and Wales for the removal of asbestos from schools but less is being done in Scotland to put pressure on local authorities and the government.
Phased asbestos removal programme - It is a matter of great importance that asbestos is removed from schools across Scotland, and the UK. The Scottish Government must take matters into their own hands; with phased asbestos removal programme in Schools and other premises, e.g. hospitals and universities.
Extend Mesothelioma Payment Scheme – to include other types of asbestos related condition; not just mesothelioma. This will provide people who were exposed to asbestos, and their dependents, with compensation when they are unable to bring a claim against the employers’ insurers.
The scheme could also be extended to include people unable to pinpoint the exact source of their exposure or who can pinpoint exposure but cannot establish that the levels of exposure were significant enough to be deemed negligent.
Create a research fund – In May 2016 the westminister government pledged £5 million pounds to Imperial College London to carry out research into mesothelioma. Earlier this year the Victor Dahdaleh Foundation who generously donated £5 million to the British Lung Foundation to fund research into treatments for mesothelioma.
Recent figures suggest that approximately 60,000 people will die of mesothelioma in the UK over the next 30 years. However, in spite of these figures, it appears that mesothelioma research is seriously under-funded when compared to other diseases.
Upcoming conference Asbestos: Challenges today and the threat to future generations
We are supporting a one-day conference taking place at Glasgow Science Centre on Friday 21 April 2017 about the challenges of Asbestos today and how it threatens future generations.
The conference is entirely free to attend and is open to all, subject to space and availability. Learn more about the Asbestos: Challenges today and the threat to future generations.
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We believe no-one should be exposed to unnecessary risk when they are simply doing their job, or going to school. Where employers fall short of providing fair health and safety, we are passionate about helping people secure justice and compensation.
If you, or someone you know, have been diagnosed with an asbestos related disease, you should seek legal advice as soon as possible. Our team can advise you on what you are entitled to and help you access the compensation you deserve.
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